Driverless vehicle pioneer to examine congestion-busting scheme for busy UK city

RDM Group's Pod Zero

West Midlands driverless vehicle pioneer, RDM Group, has secured funding to lead a new project looking at ways of alleviating congestion in one of the UK’s fastest growing cities.

The Coventry-based group is working with Cambridgeshire County Council and Wellcome Genome Campus to deliver a £250,000 feasibility study that will explore the business case for a future £3m – £5m self-driving shuttle service across two routes connecting key employment sites in Cambridge with other transport options.

Part-funded by Innovate UK, the company will utilise its existing four and eight-seater Pod Zero, as well as look at the case for designing and manufacturing larger shuttles of up to 15-seats if demand dictates.

The areas under examination will be an existed guided busway at Trumpington Park serving the Cambridge Biomedical Park, with the second, a driverless shuttle service between the Wellcome Genome Campus and Whittlesford Parkway Railway Station on a new off-road pathway.

Dr Richard Fairchild, Director of Connected and Autonomous Mobility Programmes for RDM Group, said: “Self-driving vehicles are a flexible, responsive, transport service that operates in conjunction with existing train, bus and park and ride services that can make a real impact, improving mobility around Cambridge by reducing congestion and providing first and last mile travel options.

“The feasibility study is the first step in making this project a reality and giving two strategically important sites in Cambridge the opportunity to benefit from a more connected transport network that could benefit up to 15,000 workers and thousands of visitors every day.”

He said the Whittlesford pathway would be fully autonomous, while the busway is planned to extend the existing service to a 24-hour operation, which would be especially important for the Addenbrooke hospital.

Martin Dougherty, Chief Operating Officer of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and Wellcome Genome Campus said: “The Wellcome Genome Campus is not only a world-leading centre for genomic research, but it is also a green campus. We employ a wide range of high-tech solutions to minimise our impact on the environment. Exploring how driverless electric vehicles could provide our staff with easy access to the nearby rail station may offer opportunities to further minimise our carbon footprint.”

The feasibility study will investigate key questions about the demand and impact of such a service on the areas involved, the type of vehicles and connected systems required, the best routes for the service and what is the right operating model.
RDM Group, which has recently announced offices in Australia and the US, will design and manufacture a larger version of its four and eight passenger self-driving pods to suit the location and customer needs, with all pods also able to accommodate wheelchairs, mobility scooters and bicycles.